Image: Researchers manually cut off new leaflets to decrease leaf area by just 5% and increased yields by 8%. [Click image to enlarge]
Using computer model simulations, scientists have predicted that modern soybean crops produce more leaves than they need to the detriment of yield—a problem made worse by rising atmospheric carbon dioxide. They tested their prediction by removing about one third of the emerging leaves on soybeans and found an 8% increase in seed yield in replicated trials. They attribute this boost in yield to increased photosynthesis, decreased respiration, and diversion of resources that would have been invested in more leaves than seeds.